The number of food events held in Melbourne on any given week boggles the mind. You could spend almost every night attending special chef dinners and inner-city festivals where food is the focus and everything else comes a distant second. I recently attended one of these glorious events in the form of the Gourmet Traveller Reader Dinner. You might remember me mentioning the Reader Dinner a few weeks ago. Held at Stokehouse City, the event was a poignant reminder of what was so recently lost. But the dinner was also a celebration. The resilience and persistence of the folks behind Stokehouse is inspiring and they have big plans for the new Stokehouse St Kilda opening its doors next year (fingers crossed).
The dinner was held to celebrate the new Twinings ‘infusions’ range. Chef Ollie Gould (head chef of Stokehouse City and formerly Stokehouse) presented a cracking four courses with each dish featuring flavours from the infusions range. With the teas boasting more sweet than savoury flavours (think spiced apple, camomile, orange and vanilla) it was exciting to see what Gould would come up with. We started with a light, refreshing appetiser of roasted beetroot, soft and creamy woodside goat’s cheese, camomile, shards of spiced apple and rye paired with a Pizzini Prosecco from King valley. The camomile and spiced apple ‘infusion’ was used as a dressing splashed over the roast beetroot and compressed with the apple so as to infuse the fruit with additional sweetness and flavour. The spanner crab salad was met with gasps of delight as it hit the table – and can you blame us? The epitome of prettiness, our entrée was an impressive mix of delicately sweet spanner crab mingled with robust preserved lemon and finished with a crunch of rice crisp. The marriage of the lightness of seafood with the intensity of the preserved lemon was truly something to be savoured – I’m hoping it will be brought back for the summer menu.
The main focused on simple, produce-driven dining with lamb rack, braised shoulder, grilled cos, broad beans and a bacon jus. Superbly cooked with a blush of pink in the middle and oozing with natural juices, the lamb was a clear crowd favourite. The smokiness of the char-grilled cos was a wonderful surprise and paired beautifully with the meat whilst also adding some freshness to the dish.
It was wonderful to hear chef Oliver Gould speak about the city restaurant and the changes made to the menu and service to accommodate CBD diners. Catering to a corporate crowd means lunch is a much bigger focus and dishes need be out of the kitchen and onto the table quickly and more efficiently than ever. But the one thing that hasn’t changed with the new venue is diner expectation. That Stokehouse reputation for refined dishes and superior service remains and CBD patrons expect just as much for a mid-week working lunch as they did when visiting the St Kilda venue for a special occasion dinner.
The Gourmet Traveller reader dinner was fantastic opportunity to enjoy the creative talents of chef Oliver Gould and to sample the new Twinings ‘Infusions’ range of teas. Despite the changes, it is clear Oliver has brought his unique style to the new city spot. Dishes are refined and are full of interesting components and flavours. Look out for the new Stokehouse St Kilda to open in the second half of next year!
My Fair Melbourne attended the Gourmet Traveller Reader Dinner at Stokehouse City as a guest of AMPR.